Humans and Health

Tackling Acne: When ‘Drinking More Water’ Isn’t The Answer

Mia Versluys

While the odd pimple may present itself as a mere inconvenience, for those with acne its presence can create an endless cycle of frustration, wreaking havoc upon one’s self-esteem and in our fight for answers we are often told to simply ‘drink more water’. Yet, while on some days it may feel like a losing battle, with the right knowledge and a bit of patience, you can begin to regain some control. Mia gives her tips for tackling acne.

Growing up, I was never far from a reminder of what refused to leave my face. Whether it was a comment from a child, unwrapping skincare products on Christmas day or even a brief glance in the mirror, having acne felt like an everyday reality that the world simply would not let me forget about. 

Described as an inflammatory skin disorder, acne causes outbreaks of lesions (pimples), by clogging hair follicles under the skin. While for me, its onset was gradual, by the age of fifteen acne had consumed much of my face, and as months turned into years, it soon became a problem I felt I could no longer ignore. Though it was sometimes painful, and I feared the prospect of scarring, these paled in comparison to the idea of confronting the world outside my door. I disliked what I saw in the mirror, and worse, I knew the world saw it too. 

While acne is regarded as a largely aesthetic condition, it cannot be underestimated the impacts it can have on one’s self-esteem. A recent survey by YouGov PL revealed that 41% of severe acne sufferers would prefer to see their favourite sports team lose than have acne and a further 7% preferring to be dumped by their partner. These figures adeptly represent the all too real sense of insecurity and desperation that acne can leave a person feeling. 

For me this manifested in endless hours of Google searches and YouTube videos. Each week, it was a new skin product or diet hack that often resulted in limited success and further frustration. Though far from perfect, I write today with skin that bears little resemblance to what it once was, and while I owe much to leaving puberty in the rear-view, I do not believe my research was time wasted. It is from this that I have compiled a variety of suggestions that go beyond simply drinking more water.

it was changing my diet that had one of the most profound impacts on my skin

Skin Care Products

When it comes to skin care products, there are unfortunately a considerable number that do very little to help your skin and a lot to damage your wallet, Proactive I’m looking at you. However, there are a few options that I now swear by.

It is important to begin any wash routine with a cleanser, which should ideally be able to remove any dirt and oil, while simultaneously being gentle enough to protect the skin’s moisture barrier. For me, CeraVe’s Foaming Facial Cleanser does exactly this. Being designed specifically for ‘normal to oily skin’, as well as its affordable price point, it is certainly my product of choice.

Following cleanser, it is vital to use a moisturiser. Products that are lightweight, oil-free and ‘non-comedogenic’ are ideal. Moreover, opting for a moisturiser containing SPF proves significantly important, particularly for acne sufferers. Despite entering the winter months in the UK, the sun’s UV rays continue to exist throughout the day at low levels, and, without protection, these rays can increase inflammation and worsen hyperpigmentation.

For many, a good cleanser and moisturiser may be all they need or have the time to do. However, if you are still struggling, experimenting with products in between these steps can often lead to significant improvements. 

Some products I swear by include Salicylic acid, known for its exfoliating and anti-inflammatory properties; Retinol, which is great for hyperpigmentation and Tretinoin which is available by prescription through online dermatology services such as Dermatica.


While acne presents itself externally, for many, the root cause is often internal. Until very recently, I would happily experiment with what I put on my face but when it came to what I put in my body, I kept my head firmly in the sand. Yet it was changing my diet that had one of the most profound impacts on my skin.

A quick Google search will tell you that sugar is often the prime culprit in aggravating acne, and unfortunately, the science does not lie. Following the consumption of foods containing high levels of sugar, both blood sugar and insulin levels spike within the body. This increases the production of sebum and inflammation in the body, both of which are strongly conducive to acne.

it is important to remember that it does not define you and it will get better

Foods that create these large spikes have a high glycemic load, and, if clear skin is the goal, should ideally be eaten in moderation. Unfortunately, high GI foods can often be unexpected and go beyond the simple sugary snack. Examples include white bread, baked potatoes, and watermelon. Thankfully there are plenty of low GI alternatives that can help satiate hunger, for an extensive list see here.

Further research has also shown that diets high in pantothenic acid, contained in foods such as eggs and lentils, as well as Diindolylmethane, found in brassica vegetables such as broccoli, can be beneficial to acne sufferers. Knowing this, the company Porefavour formulated an all-natural supplement filled with them, which has since been supported by a host of glowing reviews.

However, if this is all new to you, simply taking steps to reduce your sugar intake is a great start.

While there is no denying that factors such as age and hormones play a significant role in breakouts, getting your diet and skincare under control can take you a long way on the journey towards clearer skin. Above all, while struggling with acne can often feel like an uphill battle with no summit in sight, it is important to remember that it does not define you and it will get better, and if all else fails your GP is just a phone call away. 

Mia Versluys

Featured image courtesy of Raphael Lovaski via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image 1 courtesy of @Cerave via No changes were made to this image.

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